For a small state, Connecticut packs a wallop when it comes to daily fee golf. Not only is the quantity impressive, but the quality of many of the tracks takes a back seat to top courses found in any other state. There are parkland routings, those near the Long Island Sound, high-end resort courses, and top-rated municipal layouts that are enough to keep native Nutmeggers and visitors to the state knocking the pill around for weeks on end.
The summer months are a perfect time to sample what Connecticut has to offer. The courses are in superb condition, greens fees are more than reasonable, and the days long enough to get 36 in if you so desire. If you want to make a vacation out of it, the state has hotels, inns, bed and breakfast establishments, restaurants, shopping venues, beaches, casinos, educational attractions and historical sites--a plethora of things to do and see after golf.
Let’s check out some of the top daily fee courses in the state.
Simsbury Farms Golf Course, which measures 6,509 yards in length from the championship markers, was designed by renowned architect Geoffrey Cornish and opened for play in 1972. Recognized as one of the top 100 courses in New England by one New England publication, “The Farms” provides an excellent test of golf and a very visually pleasing round for players of all levels. A driving range and large practice green as well as a newly constructed club house compliment the golfing complex.
Blue Fox Run Golf Course in Avon has 27 holes of solid golf. An existing nine was mixed with the new nine a few years back to create a fun, playable 18 holes. The former back nine is still in play on the other side of the Farmington River and offers players a nine-hole option or the ability to tack on an additional nine holes to make for a full day of golf. The new holes are a pleasing mix of those that are open in nature and several that are lined by trees. There is ample bunkering in the fairways and around the modest-sized greens. One of the best new holes is the 500-yard par-five fourth on the White Course. If you can steer clear of fairway bunkers to the left of the fairway and high grass on the right, you may be left with an opportunity to go for the large, oblong green in two.
Tower Ridge Country Club in Simsbury is one of the most unique layouts in the state, with a feel more like that of a northern New England track. The layout has several dramatic elevation changes as it winds up and down steep hills, with fabulous views and challenging shots. After a journey along the Farmington River valley for the first three holes, one of which is a super 185-yard par-three across water, the remaining holes on the front side play up and then down a steep cliff. The fourth hole is a scenic 385-yard par-four that demands an accurate tee shot to find a narrow landing area that sits between a pond and a wetland area. The approach is to an elevated green with the flag partially hidden from sight.
Manchester Country Club opened in 1917 and was designed by two early 20th century course architects, Tom Bendelow and Devereaux Emmett, the latter creating famed Congressional in Washington, D.C.
Manchester features superb conditions and bunkers placed strategically around the fairway landing areas and putting surfaces, which puts a premium on accuracy both off the tee and on approaches to the medium-sized greens.
The course plays only 6,339 yards from the tips and has a par of 72, but the slope of 128 gives you an idea about the challenge you will face here. There are some elevation changes and water comes into play on several holes.
Quarry Ridge Golf Club, located on the slopes of the Connecticut River valley in Portland, offers some of the best vistas in Connecticut.
This is a true shot-maker’s delight, with dramatic elevation changes, an interesting mix of long and short holes and tricky greens. The course is regularly listed among the best in Connecticut and conditions are always top-notch. Perhaps the best long hole on the course is the 509-yard, par-five fourth. The green is reachable in two, but there’s a hazard down the left side and a pond behind the putting surface.
Banner Country Club, a 6,015-yard, par-72 track, is situated on 200 acres of scenic Connecticut countryside in Moodus. There is a pleasing mix of wooded and open holes and the layout is playable for all levels and challenging enough to hold the interest of more accomplished golfers.
Especially daunting are back-to-back par-fives on the front side. The sixth is a 507-yard, double-dogleg with water and an elevated green. The putting surface can be reached in two, but there is plenty of danger awaiting an errant shot.
Elmridge Golf Club in Pawcatuck is solid public golf. The prices are affordable and the three nines are eminently playable for golfers of all abilities. The par-fours are on the short side, most measuring between 340 and 370 yards from the middle tees, but a number of them are dogleg designs, which complicate matters off the tee. The par-threes are strengths of the layout and several measure close to or over 200 yards. One of the best par-fives on the course is the 525-yard (back tees) seventh on the Blue Course. The hole bends slightly to the right and a good drive will leave you with a shot to go for the green in two.
But there are bunkers guarding the putting surface and the green is elevated.
Laurel View Country Club in Hamden is a classic Geoffrey Cornish track, the overall conditions of which have been enhanced mightily in recent years. The course continues to be a stern test of playing ability. The course can be stretched beyond 7,000 yards and features some of the toughest par-fours in the state, like the 479-yard fifth. There’s a pond guarding the right side of the green, which often must be attacked with a long iron or fairway wood. Number nine is 450 yards from the back markers, and climbs up a hill to the putting surface, making the hole play 20 to 30 yards longer than its listed yardage.
Coventry’s Twin Hills Country Club was built on a former farm and offers sweet-feeling rural golf, yet it is convenient to Hartford and other cities off Rt. 84. Twin Hills offers a beautiful setting with the country charm of stone walls, a covered bridge and its signature stone bridge located on hole number three (a massive 600-yard par-five) that makes one think of the famous bridge crossing to the 12th green at Augusta National Golf Club.
Tallwood Country Club is known for its classic New England landscape. Situated on over 200 acres of rolling country farmland, it’s another perfect place for a quiet golf getaway. The course offers a pleasingly eclectic mix of strong par-threes, long and demanding and then shortish and tricky par-fours, as well as par-fives that sometimes are reachable in two for long hitters and other times, not so much.
Robert McNeil of Northeast Golf Company worked his magic to create a new course at what is now Mohegan Sun Country Club in Baltic. McNeil took a layout first designed by Geoffrey Cornish and reworked by Stephen Kay in 2002 and created something very special.
McNeil opened up to course to create somewhat of a links feel on many holes, with mounded fairway and greenside bunkers and tall fescue grass growing in the rough areas. In all, five holes were totally rebuilt, the bunkers redesigned and all new greens installed. One of the best holes on the new track is the sixth, a great, 495-yard par-five that starts from a severely elevated tee. There is water if your tee shot is hit too strong straightway and big hitters can cut the corner on the right to shorten the approach, which is to an elevated green that is tucked into a hillside with a waterfall tumbling down toward the pond below.
Portland Golf Course measures just over 6,200 yards from the tips and plays to a par of 71. The course is set in the rolling hills of the Connecticut River Valley, and its tree-lined fairways, various elevation changes, and doglegs make the track, scenic and challenging and enjoyable for players of all ages and levels. The layout is a solid one and its challenges can be seen right away. The 405-yard par-four first hole is a tough way to begin a round. The tee shot is relatively easy but the second shot is down a 60-foot drop to the green, which makes club selection difficult. Number 12 is a nice, 520-yard par-five that is a slight double dogleg. There’s a tree in the middle of the hole that influences the second shot and must be avoided at all costs to leave an unfettered short approach to the putting surface.
Portland Golf West is an 18-hole “executive” par-60 course located in Portland. The course features a front and a back nine, with six par-threes and three par-fours. The course is meticulously groomed and golfers claim the track has some of the best greens in the state, public or private. At Portland Golf West, don’t leave your long irons or utility clubs at home, with par-threes over 200 yards, you’ll need every club in the bag.
Fox Hopyard Golf Club in East Haddam, designed by Roger Rulewich, is considered one of the premier daily fee layouts in southern New England. The club offers a blend of challenging golf, first-class customer care and a setting that is difficult to beat. There isn’t a weak hole at Fox Hopyard. At almost 7,000 yards from the back markers, which carry a slope rating of 136, the par-71 course offers a stern test for even the best players. But five sets of tees allow the track to be enjoyed by golfers of all abilities. The 202-yard par-three fourth features a dramatic elevation drop from tee to green and stunning views of the surrounding countryside.
Norwich Golf Club has always been known for its fine playing conditions and as a fun, somewhat tricky layout that is approachable and interesting for players of all abilities. The course opened in 1925 and was designed by Tull and Tull, a famous golf course architectural firm of the day. Norwich isn’t long, just 6,191 yards from the tips. But its slope of 131 from the championship markers gives you an idea of just how difficult it can be to navigate this track. The course features three sets of tees for different skill levels and the greens and fairways are rye grass. There is no water on any of the holes.
Shennecossett Golf Course in Groton, built in 1898, is as close to a true links course as you will find in the Nutmeg State. The layout rambles over mostly flat land and has the design features--pot bunkers, tall fescue grass off the fairways and even three holes on or near the ocean, albeit Long Island Sound--that are hallmarks of links courses. When the wind blows hard at Shenny it can bend the flagsticks and make some par-fours impossible to reach in two.
Holes 15, 16 and 17, (the 16th, a 400-yard par-four, finishes on a green that lies within a chip shot of Long Island Sound) offers stunning views of the water.
Connecticut National Golf Club in Putnam first opened at Putnam Country Club in 1994 and was reborn after extensive renovations several years ago added 800 yards of length to the original 6,169 yards, as well as a whole lot of modern styling and distinction to the track. In all, some 4,000 trees removed, new fairways seeded and sodded, bunkers added or altered, and new green complexes built. It’s now one of the best daily fee layouts on Southern New England. The reworking of Connecticut National Golf Club turned the layout into a pleasant mix of links and parkland holes, with the open holes having a few trees on them, as well as the usual high fescue rough off the fairways.
East Mountain Golf Course in Waterbury was designed by Wayne Stiles and opened for play in 1932. The golf course retains much the same character as many of the classic designs of this period. Redesigned in 2007 by architect Stephen Kay to increase par from 67 to 70, the course is challenging to players of all skill levels, while remaining very accessible for those who chose to walk 18.
Originally designed by William F. Gordon, Western Hills Golf Course, also in Waterbury, was opened for play in the fall of 1960. The course is known for its rolling terrain and beautiful vistas. Renovated in 2007 by Kay, the project included bunkering and design changes to improve playability and drainage.
Goodwin Park Golf Course is a 27-hole facility on the border of Hartford and Wethersfield. The course measures just over 6,000 yards from the back tees and plays to a par of 70. Golf has been played on the 120-year-old park since 1906. The North Course measures 2,500 yards, has a par of 35 and is a perfect layout for beginners and those looking for a quick nine.
The Golf Club at Windham in North Windham first opened in 1922 and was maintained as a private facility until only a few years ago when it was opened to the public. The conditions are very good for a daily fee facility and well worth the modest greens fees. The putting surfaces are medium in size with some undulation, as they roll true and reward good approach shots with birdie opportunities. The rough areas are kept at a height that somewhat punishes wayward tee shots but still allows you to advance the ball to the greens. The course demands precision off the tee, as mature trees line many of the holes. There is a pleasing mix of holes, ranging from short to long par-fours, reachable par-fives and demanding par-threes, the latter perhaps the strength of the track.
Designed in 1958 by the late Wendell Ross, Pequot Golf Club in Stonington has been played by such luminaries of the game as Jack Nicklaus, who in 1966 set the “official” course record of 65 that still stands today. Pequot’s par 70, 18-hole layout challenges players of all skill levels and is an enjoyable track routed through mature woodlands The semi-private course measures 5,903 yards from the longest tees, has a slope rating of 118 and a 68.7 USGA rating. The course features two sets of tees for different skill levels.
Hawk’s Landing Country Club in Southington is a par-70 layout, offers spectacular views and is designed for all skill levels. The course plays only around 5,800 yards from the tips, and offers a mix of short par-fours, reachable-in-two par-fives and demanding par-threes. One of the best par-fours is the 300-yard dogleg sixth that calls for a precise tee shot and a second shot across water. Two par-threes, the 230-yard seventh and 235-yard ninth, are monsters and three other par-threes play at least 180 yards.
Southington Country Club is located in the picturesque “Apple Valley” between the Meriden and Waterbury hills. The course plays 5,932 yards from the tips and has a par of 71. The front nine is built on a hilly open terrain while the narrower back nine is much flatter. Water comes into play on 10 of the holes. There’s a full service restaurant and banquet room, The Back Nine Tavern. Similar to Hawk’s Landing, Southington Country Club features a pleasingly eclectic mix of holes, short par-fours, interesting par-threes that range in distance from the 96-yard 12th that is a tricky little hole to the 240-yard 15th, and strong par-fives.